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212

FINALIST
Jury Selection

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“Single girl, prepare to meet the great love of your life under the sign of water, surrounded by red, protected by the number 3 and charged with the energy of the obsidian stone.”
The predictions made by the divination card game in the magazine Astrology for Women were enough to confuse anyone. The 23 blades of the tarot of cats, insects and flowers were forgotten. So were clues to your future according to the science of card draws. They had given way to this Valentine’s Day special issue with its extremely precise yet totally incomprehensible answers concerning her romantic future.
A man in red trunks, in a swimming pool, with number 3 written on his swimming cap and a pendant with a glistening black stone?
No. He wore a wedding ring and was kissing a tall brunette full on the mouth when Ellie passed him by the changing rooms.
A fireman with a disarming smile and the number 3 written on the back of his uniform? A fireman is a man dressed in red who works with water...
No, not him either. The disarming smile was directed to the handsome young man standing behind her in the crowd watching the operation.
Or else... A charming young man on the bus, with a red scarf with three pompoms round his neck, a bottle of mineral water in his hand and magnificent black hair falling too irresistibly over his eyes?
No, still not the right one. The love of your life could not be a common pickpocket, brushing up against young lovesick students and emptying their pockets with a smile.
“What if I never manage it, Leonard?”
“Manage what?”
“To find the love of my life!”
“What makes you say that?”
“I’ve tried everything. Friends of friends, parties, people at Uni, dating sites...”
“So you think a stupid card game in a stupid astrology magazine is what’s going to solve all your problems and bring you the great love of your life?”
“Well, first, neither the cards nor the magazine are stupid. Maybe irrational, that’s the worst you can say. And love doesn’t always go hand in hand with reason, does it? Secondly, I know full well that it isn’t cards that create my future. It’s me myself. They only show me a path to follow, a road I’m free to go down it or not. And thirdly, Mr Feet-on-the-ground, it so happens that I don’t believe in chance and I’m convinced that I got this result for a very precise reason.”
“Which is?”
“That the love of my life will be red, water, number 3 and obsidian stone! In fact, all I have to do is adjust my interpretation for it to work.”
Leonard, her ground floor neighbor, night-time barman and occasional student during the day, looked at her doubtfully.
“If you say so,” he declared, before continuing to wipe glasses and attend to the other customers.
Valentine’s Day was getting inexorably nearer and Ellie still hadn’t found anyone. She went for long walks in the park on rainy days, sighed longingly over travel books in bookstores, flicked through very worthy tomes on the sea in libraries and pranced about in nightclubs in a figure-hugging blue dress. Every time she thought she saw a man who might suit, at every sign or clue her heart leapt, then grew disillusioned in the minutes that followed. He wasn’t free, or good-looking, not enough this, too much that...
On the evening of Valentine’s Day, a few hours before midnight, Ellie was still on her own. With a humourless laugh, she admitted she was beaten. This was obviously not the year she was going to stop being single. Never mind! She decided to go out to distract herself. And found herself at midnight, after a crazy evening with her girlfriends, sprawled over the counter of her friend’s bar, staring vacantly into the pink and blue liquid of her cocktail as she pondered her failures in love.
“I am cursed, Leonard.”
“No, you’re alone, there’s a difference.”
“Oh, that’s enough! You don’t need to be cruel. You haven’t been single for more than two years, have you?”
“No, but I have a different method from yours for finding true love.”
“What is it? Go to bed first and regret it afterwards?”
“No. I just don’t look for it at all.”
Ellie looked up and frowned as she met her friend’s big enigmatic smile. Around them the bar had emptied, the wood and glass decor had taken on a warm orange glow and the music had suddenly become softer. Intrigued, she watched him retrieve something from under the counter and walk up to her. Her eyes opened wide as she saw what he had just placed before her.
“I’m trying my luck, after all, who knows?”
On the counter was a large empty glass. He filled it with water, then, without taking his eyes off her, dropped into it three polished stones of brilliant black. Then, with a little smile on his lips, he hung a large very red strawberry over the rim of the glass and pushed the glass towards her. Ellie spent several seconds with her mind speeding back and forth between the man who listened patiently to her endless moaning every day and this version who had also decided to wear a bright red T-shirt on which he had written ‘Happy Valentine’s Day!’ She burst out laughing and flung herself into his arms.
With her lips pressed against those of her Valentine for one evening… or for life, Ellie savoured the moment without, for once, asking any questions. Well, just the one.
Who knows?

Translated by Wendy Cross

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